The Thing Called Adolescence

Maya walked up to me on a Friday after fourth period and said that she was going to fix me. I knew I was a loner and that no one particularly liked me, but up to that moment, I hadn´t realized it was a problem that needed fixing.

Maya´s proposal bothered me all weekend long. I even forgot to check the window before I went to bed, which never happened before. I woke in the middle of the night and for the first time in years the feeling that I had forgotten to do something was haunting me again. So I got up, checked if the window was firmly closed and bolted and went to bed again. But the feeling didn´t leave and I had to get up and check the window over and over again for the rest of the night. Needless to say, I didn´t get much sleep.

Mum knew that something was off, but she prepared the breakfast all the same and didn´t ask questions. I don´t like to be asked questions in the morning. My brain isn´t up in the morning and it takes a long time to work, just like a machine that needs to warm-up before you can use it. I don´t like to talk either. Talking bothers me. There are so many social and cultural rules to talking that it spoils talking for me. I have a problem with manners. That doesn´t mean that I´m not well-behaved, I just never am with a lot of people and I don´t want to offend anyone when actually talking to them, so I take a lot of time to figure out what to say and apparently that is considered ill-mannered. I know how to behave, I do. But I am alone most of the time and I don´t need to watch my manners around myself.

Maya is waiting for me in front of the school entrance on Monday morning, and she links arms with me. We will be great friends, she says, but I don´t know what she means. I have never talked to her before. But Maya doesn´t mind that I don´t talk. She does most of the talking. Maya says that we should ditch and she pulls me away from the school building, even though I need to be in there with the other students in my Physics class. I need to study and become smart and graduate soon.

Maya smiles at me and asks me if I have ever ditched before. She looks nice when she smiles. She has a crooked front tooth. I look away because the asymmetry of her teeth bothers me. I guess it´s natural not to have straight teeth, but I can´t look at her smile and not notice the crooked tooth. Maya pulls me along with her and she leads me to the park across the street. I think it´s not a good idea to ditch and then go to the park, because you can see the park from the school and if the teachers catch us we have to do detention or get suspended. I don´t want to get suspended.

While we wait for the green light, Maya looks up and down the street and I know she thinks about jaywalking, but there are too many cars around and we have to wait for the green light. I only always go when the light is green, because that´s safest, but I figure that Maya doesn´t care about it. She walks faster than me and pulls me along and then she turns her head around to me in the middle of the street and she laughs and I can see her crooked front tooth again. With the sunlight on her face it doesn´t look that frightening anymore.

Ditching makes Maya happy. She usually doesn´t seem that happy around other people in school. She is in my class and we have never talked. That´s not surprising because I don´t talk to anyone, not even to the teachers, but the way Maya smiles at me is weird, because it makes me think that we are friends already and I don´t know if we are, but why would she smile at me like that and not want to be friends with me. I mean, if she doesn´t want to talk to me or spend time with me, she could have simply left things the way they were.

Things were fine the way they were. I got good grades, I got my work done, I had my photography projects and I had my life figured out. I was finally ready to be part of society and my parents let me go to a public school, but the first months were much different from the time I spent at my last school. There, people just accepted that I was introvert and didn´t bother to talk to me. I didn´t ask the autist to let me be a part of his world, I don´t ask the brain-damaged to explain complex science problems to me and they didn´t bother to ask me anything. Apparently, I´m smart. My parents had me tested. They didn´t want to send me to a public school, but my doctors think it´s best if I go and be among normal people. I think that´s not fair. My former classmates were just as normal.

I haven´t paid attention to where we are going and I blame Maya for it. She disorganized my schedule and the disorganization makes me think too hard about everything. I don´t know where we are, but we are not in the park. I guess it´s for the better because now we are not in sight anymore and none of the teacher will see us ditching a class.

Maya pulls me along. I can walk alone, but I don´t tell her because I figure she is happy the way things are. We are past the tracks now and I know there is nothing behind the tracks but empty buildings. Ghost town behind the tracks, it´s called. It´s were the kids go. At GT, they smoke and have sex. I get nervous now. I don´t smoke, I have asthma. And I don´t even want to think about having sex. Physical contact makes me nervous. Not sexually nervous, just plain nervous. I don´t know how to react to physical contact. Why do people touch each other? Why do they reach out to touch someone´s face? Why do they hold hands? Why do the link arms and run to the ghost town with me?

Maya interrupts my thoughts. She makes me climb through a hole in a fence. It says danger, high voltage on the sign but I don´t hear the buzzing of electricity. It really is a ghost town. Maya pushes me through the hole and I rip my pants on the sharp edge of the loose wire endings. The wire scratches my knee and there is a little blood. I wipe it off before Maya can see it. But she notices anyway and bends to look at the rip. At least the rip is on the knee and not someplace else, she says. I know what she means but I don´t know why she said it. She grabs my arm and pulls me along with her. I get so distracted by her hand on my arm that I stumble and fall. Maya laughs. She helps me up but she is laughing really hard. I can see her crooked front tooth again.

My pants are ripped and dirty and that´ll take some explaining when I get home. I don´t think anyone at school will notice, because they generally don´t notice me. Maybe they will if I come to school with ripped, dirty pants, but I´m not too sure about it. Maya is still laughing and she tells me to watch were I´m going. I did, but I guess she doesn´t know what it is like to have to think about everything. If I explain that it´s all because she changed my schedule, she´ll probably be upset and I don´t want to upset her, so I don´t say anything at all.

Maya leads me through the ghost town and into an empty building. We climb the stairs. They look dangerous and I expect them to collapse at any minute now. We make it to the second floor, then to the third and then to the roof. Maya walks over to the edge and sits down. Her legs dangle over the edge. She tells me to come and sit down, but I can´t. I´m paralyzed. I don´t like heights. But at the same time I wish I had my camera with me. I have never been this high up and the view from here is spectacular. Maya gets up and walks over to me. You are afraid of heights, right, she says and touches my arm again. This time, I get the creeps.

We sit down farther away from the edge and I feel much more comfortable here. Maya crosses her legs and watches me watch the sky. You like the sky, don´t you, she says. I don´t know what to say, Obviously, I like the sky. I like the sky and clouds and the horizon but I usually can´t see much of the horizon like this, without buildings blocking my view.  I wish I had my camera with me. I really do. I would take a picture, but I figure it would make me sick watching it and remembering how paralyzed I was when I first saw the unblocked horizon.

Do you smoke, she says and gets cigarettes out of the pocket of her coat. I don´t know why she wears a coat. It´s light fabric, but it´s so warm out even in the mornings, I don´t know why she bothered to put on a coat. I shake my head in answer to her question and Maya lights a cigarette for herself. I watch her inhale nicotine. Her eyes are closed and she whiffs like the women in movies. Have you ever tried, she asks. Her eyes are still close. She takes another puff and the sunlight hits her face. She opens her eyes again and I quickly drop my gaze.

You are weird, she says and looks at me funny. I can see it out of the corner of my eyes. Her head is bent to the side and she still looks at me funny. Like she´s trying to solve the riddle. I get that a lot. People have been looking at me like that for as long as I can remember. There is nothing wrong with me, I say and Maya stares. That´s like the first thing I ever heard you say, she says. I don´t know what to say. She might be right. It could be the first thing she has ever heard me say. I couldn´t tell. That bugs me. I need to know things. That´s what the schedules are for. I know what happens at any time of the day. So that there is nothing for me to worry about. Because I worry about so much. Everything bothers me, everything makes me think, and everything occupies my mind. I try to remember the first time I noticed Maya, but I can´t remember.

Are you gay, she asks and interrupts my thoughts. I meet her glance. Maya smiles. Well, she asks. I don´t know why she asks. It wouldn´t change anything if I were gay. I look at her for a moment and hope that she is not against gay people. They are nice. They are much more helpful, I guess because they are considered outcasts just like me. They are a lot like me, but I know I´m not gay. Not that it would matter much if I were. I can´t imagine touching anyone, neither male nor female. It takes me a lot to hug my mum. How would I manage to have sex with a person. My doctors said that these thoughts would come. They call it puberty, but I call it adolescence. They say it´s not the same and I agree. I went through puberty three years ago. It´s just that they didn´t notice. Some doctors. My voice changed but it´s understandable they didn´t notice it had, because I don´t like to talk to them. I could wear a beard now, if I wanted to. I don´t. I shave. Dad says I shouldn´t worry, he was nineteen before he could grow a beard. I´m not worried. I´m eighteen and I need to shave already. That´s another reason why I don´t call it puberty. I´m too old. But sometimes I think that the doctors think I´m backward in development. That´s why they insist on calling it puberty, not adolescence.

Well, Maya asks again. I shake my head. Do you like girls then, she asks. I don´t like her questions. Why is she asking questions? I wish she would stop, but I at the same time I want to know why she asks such strange questions. I want to ask her why she keeps asking weird questions but I don´t know how to put it without offending her. I hope she has an agenda and she will tell me about it soon, but I figure she just asks things that are on her mind. The riddle again. The doctors say it´s normal that I think that other think of me as a riddle. If only I would talk more, people would stop thinking of me as a riddle. I don´t think that´s actually true, because it is a predisposition and I cannot change it and therefore the assumption that things would be different if only I changed is definitely mooted. Experiment, they call it. Nonsense, I think.

Maya takes another puff and the red light on the end of her cigarette glimmers. I wonder if the cigarette knows that its end it near. The wind changes and the warm breeze carries the smoke over to me. I hold my breath. Maya flicks the cigarette over the edge and when the red glimmering stump disappears, I hear Maya sigh. Isn´t it wonderful out, she asks and holds her face up to the sky again. She sits like that for a while, then she takes off her coat and puts it down like a blanket on the dirty ground behind her. She leans back and drops to her makeshift blanket with a noticeable thump. Come, she says and pats the dirty ground right next to her. I don´t have a coat to spread out for my like a blanket, so I use my backpack as a pillow and lay down in the dirt next to her. Maya opens her eyes and lifts her arms to the sky. She blocks the beams of sun with her hand. Against the bright light of the sun, her fingers look really very thin. She has a lot of cuts on her arms. I don´t know where she got them, but there are a lot. I guess that´s why she wears a coat. So that no one can see the cuts. I want to ask her about the cuts, but I don´t like sad stories much.

Maya turns around to me. She is propped up on her arms now and when I move my head a bit to the left, the sun makes it looks like she is wearing a halo. So do you like girls then, she asks again. I nod. Do you like me then, she asks. I don´t know what to say. I don´t even know if I like my parents. Or myself. I don´t think in that terms. I don´t value relationships to others like other people do. I like people who leave me alone, because that´s best for me. Maya is right in my face now, not just metaphorically speaking, but quite literal, because her head comes closer and closer and the closer her head gets, the more of the sun comes out behind her and blinds me, so I close my eyes and I can see the shadow of her head on my closed eyelids and then she touches me, only it´s not her hand on my arm, but her lips on mine and I know it´s called kissing and I´ve seen others do it, but I don´t know how to react to that, so I just remain still and let her kiss me. But she doesn´t pull back. With effort, she slides closer to me and her weight almost crushes my chest. She is almost on top of me and that weird feeling goes through my body. I don´t like physical contact. It makes my body itch like hell.

Maya´s lips are on mine again, and this time she presses them to mine more vigorously and I want to protest and open my mouth and that´s when her tongue slips between my lips and touches mine.

And the world stops.

Not in a literal meaning, this time, but metaphorically speaking. I can´t hear the birds anymore or the breeze going through the trees, blowing the dirt over the ground, the distant noises of the city that is stretched out in front of us, even church bells and sirens fade away. My eyes are still firmly closed and all I can feel is the sun on my naked skin and Maya´s tongue touching mine and the rest of my body is numb.

Well, not the entire body.

I have had that feeling before and thanks to my dad I know what I shall do, but I don´t want to do it in front of Maya, so I push her away and get up and turn around because I don´t want her to see. All the sounds come back to my ear and the feeling returns to my body. I can hear Maya sighing behind me. Then there is the sound of fabric on fabric, crunching sounds as she gets up and walks over to me. She puts her arms around me. It´s ok, she says. She reaches for my hand and I pull it back, but she reaches for it again and pulls me back to where we had sat before. She sits down on her coat and I sit down next to her. Lay back, she says and I do as she says, because I figure it´s ok now. Maya lifts my arm, crawls underneath it, rests her head on my chest and lets my arm drop onto her shoulder. That´s better, isn´t it, she says and sighs again. I know that she can look at the bulge in my pants now and I don´t really know if this is any better and I just hope that her eyes are closed.

She breathes steadily and I think she enjoys this moment, so I try to relax as well, but it´s hard with her on my chest. She is too close. I don´t know what to do with her. I try to let my arm drop from her shoulder, but she grabs my hand and holds it in hers and I feel that she is now even closer to my body than before. You know you´re heart has a very irregular rhythm, she says. I know her ear is right over my heart, but I don´t think she is right about the rhythm of my heart, because I don´t feel any changes to it. She moves now and frees my arm and it drops to her side. You know, I always liked you, she says. I cannot look into her eyes, because the sun is blinding me. She moves and I can feel her body weight on my chest again and I think oh no, here we go again and I open my eyes just in time to see her face inches away from mine. Her eyes are open and she meets my gaze.

Maya stops.

Her lips are so close to mine that I can feel her breath on my skin. It smells of nicotine and tooth paste and I find it a very strange smell. I don´t know what else to think of her breath, so I wait for her to do something, but she doesn´t. My body starts to itch again. Her body is way too close and her weight pushes down on me. My arm prickles and my shoulders pushes down to the ground so hard it hurts. Maya bends her head a bit and the sun vanishes behind her head and she looks like she is wearing a halo again. I can look at her now without blinking. She waits and I don´t know what she waits for. She is so close I can see the bluish green circle around her iris and the light grey dots. I don´t know if I have ever seen an eye color like hers before. Mine are plain brown and that´s it and I don´t know why Maya keeps gazing into them. There is nothing to see. It frustrates me. I wish I had a mirror so that I could see what she is actually looking at, but I don’t have a mirror with me. Her weight is pushing down on me even more and I wonder if she knows that I can´t stand it any longer, because she props up her arm and lifts a bit of her weight off my chest. But then she reaches out and puts her other hand on my arm and I get the creeps once more, only this time, my body reacts to it quite differently. I stare at her as the prickling feeling radiates from her hand on my arm right through my body. I want to close my eyes to explore the feeling, but Maya holds my gaze and I simply cannot look away.

She is so close now, I don´t know if we are two separate bodies or one. Her hand caresses my arm now and I let her. There is a spasm in my left leg and I try to control it because for some very strange reason I don´t want Maya to stop. She strokes all the way down my chest now and I´m afraid she won´t stop at my belt and she doesn´t and her hand is now on my genitals and I want to complain and tell her to stop, but when I mouth the words not a sound comes out. But when I form the word stop my lips touch hers, because her face is still that close to mine. I believe it is what she had been waiting for and she kisses me again and my body starts to itch and she rubs my genitals, which feels good, but I´m not too sure I want her to do that, but the moment passes quickly and I moan and the sound staggers me but there is no time for me to think about the sound I just made, because Maya´s tongue is in my mouth again and she rubs my genitals so good it makes it hard for me to focus on my thoughts. My body jerks upwards when I come and Maya drops her hand to my side and kisses me one more time. I´m too exhausted to object. Maya smiles and I can see her crooked front tooth. I really like you, she says and cuddles up to me again. My pants cling to my body now and I know there´ll be a mess in my boxers, but all I can think of is the nicotine taste in my mouth and that thing called adolescence that I think I have just put behind me.

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